A week after Ministry of National Defense shattered NagaWorld’s bid for the domestic double by beating them 3-1 in extra time in their Hun Sen Cup semifinal, the two arch rivals clash again on Saturday to pursue their Metfone C-League hopes, with a 3pm kick-off at Old Stadium.
The stakes are a lot higher for Naga this time as they top the table, two points ahead of closest rival Boeung Ket, with Visakha a further three points adrift in third. Army are a faraway fourth, 11 points adrift of Naga’s 47 with two more gameweeks to go.
The casino-backed side could not have bargained for a better setting than this to overturn their Cup disappointment and go after their third league triumph for which they have been waiting nearly a decade.
Coach Meas Channa will be keen to get the best from his overseas contingent, including prolific striker Geoerge Bisan, to muzzle Army, who will also be leaning on their imports to make this contest as tough as the clashes between these two usually are.
There are two vital factors that make this a must-win game for Naga. Three points would be precious enough to get them closer to the title and will allow them to face the remaining two matches with confidence.
Any other result will massively increase the pressure as both Boeung Ket and Vishaka are close enough to capitalise on any Naga slip-up and force the finish right down to the wire.
Since the title is almost out of Army’s reach at this point, they have nothing to lose, and free from any sort of desperation they could shift the pressure squarely on their opponents. So the burden will be on Naga to prove their desire.
Taking the pitch after this important showdown, Visakha will be eager to see off National Police in an evening encounter. A victory would keep them in the hunt.
A stumble or two by either Naga or Boeung Ket could present them an opening to close out a dream debut top-flight season in title-winning style.
Meanwhile, Preah Khan Reach Svey Rieng will welcome Siem Reap-based Soltilo Angkor to the Svay Rieng Stadium. The outcome will have no impact on the top half of the standings.
Defending champions Boeung Ket must deem themselves somewhat fortunate to play their game against lowly Electricite du Cambodge on Sunday in full knowledge of how well their two other main title threats fare the previous day.
It is hard to see Boeung Ket coming under any real pressure, though it must be borne in mind that the Electricitymen held the champs to a goalless draw a couple of months ago.
While Asia Europe United host Phnom Penh Crown at their facility, whipping boys Western Phnom Penh face Angkor Tigers, who did well to make the semifinals of the Hun Sen Cup, in their best ever showing in a domestic competition.